Alan Rocky Lane

Known to moviegoers as one of Hollywood’s biggest Western stars.

Biography written by and objects on loan from
Pete DeKever, HLCM Advisory Board Member

Born in Mishawaka on September 22, 1909, Harry Leonard Albershart was the youngest child of William and Anna Albershart, who resided at 224 East Joseph Street (Mishawaka Avenue today). Harry’s parents soon divorced, and the boy moved back and forth between their homes and even supported himself by working at Ball Band when he was just 7 years old. He was living in Mishawaka until at least 1919 and later moved with his mother to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Harry began acting on stage in 1925 and toured the country in productions before landing an uncredited role in the 1928 silent picture, Dream of Love, the first of his 125 film credits. The next year he assumed the screen name Allan Lane and had small parts in several more movies before leaving briefly for Broadway. After coming back to California, Allan grew displeased with the small roles he was getting, gave up acting in 1932, and ran his own advertising agency in New York City.

Lane resumed his film career in 1936 and earned his first starring role in The Duke Comes Back (1937). Known as one of the most attractive men in Hollywood, Allan appeared in dramas and comedies during the late 1930s, making six or seven films a year. In mostly supporting roles, he appeared with stars such as Shirley Temple, John Wayne, Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck, Ginger Rogers, Jimmy Cagney, and Lucille Ball.

The beginning of Allan Lane’s career in Westerns was King of the Royal Mounted (1940). By 1943, Lane was finally known as a lead actor and was soon steadily doing Westerns. He took on the role of Red Ryder in Santa Fe Uprising, one of seven movies where Lane starred as Red Ryder in 1946-1947.

As Red Ryder rode off into the sunset, Republic Pictures created a new persona and film franchise for Lane. The Wild Frontier (1947) was the first of 39 films in which he played “Rocky” Lane, a lawman who upheld justice and defended the good folk of the Old West. The movies were known for gun fights, fist fights, and horse chases featuring Rocky’s trusty steed, Black Jack.

The studio felt “Allan” did not sound heroic enough, so Lane suggested “Rocky,” his nickname from grade school. The “Rocky” persona soon blended with Allan’s own identity, and numerous products were marketed to children bearing his name and likeness, such as comic books, pocket knives, and an iron-on shoulder patch for the “Rocky Lane Posse.” The rise of television eventually brought the decline of Westerns like Lane’s, and El Paso Stampede (1953) was his last as Rocky Lane.

In the later 1950s, Allan Lane made numerous guest appearances on TV programs, pursued business interests, and continued to buy and train horses.

The role that would become Lane’s greatest Hollywood legacy began in 1961 when he provided the voice for a talking horse in Mr. Ed, a television sitcom starring Alan Young as the owner of a palomino who often seemed to be human in his antics and personality.

Allan Lane’s deep, gravelly voice gave humanity to the animal, and the veteran Western star and horse-lover felt he knew how a horse might react to human situations. At first, Lane was embarrassed that he was playing a horse’s voice and refused to have his name in the show’s credits. After Mr. Ed became a hit, he changed his mind, but the studio insisted that Lane’s role remain anonymous in order to preserve the mystique behind the horse’s human voice. Mr. Ed ran for five seasons and continues in reruns fifty years later.

Alan Lane retired from show business after Mr. Ed but maintained his interest in horses and horse racing. He died in Los Angeles on October 27, 1973, and is buried in Inglewood, California.